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Father Pavone to seek new diocese, bishop extends inquiry; group will picket parishes

September 15, 2011

Father Frank Pavone told reporters that he will seek incardination in another diocese following Bishop Patrick Zurek’s decision to end the priest’s ministry outside his diocese.

Speaking at a press conference before he celebrated Mass at Amarillo’s cathedral, Father Pavone said that “I do not foresee myself staying incardinated in Amarillo.”

“It’s a sensitive issue,” he added. “We’re working it out behind the scenes. But I say that in light of the bishop’s apparent unwillingness to let me do pro-life work full time, I will seek that elsewhere.”

Msgr. Harold Waldow, the diocese’s vicar of clergy and moderator of the curia, said that Bishop Zurek has extended his financial inquiry beyond Priests for Life to two other organizations associated with Father Pavone: Rachel’s Vineyard, which offers healing to women who have abortions, and the Missionaries of the Gospel of Life, a lay association.

“I’m sure that our bishop does not stand alone on this,” said Msgr. Waldow. “He is in a community of other bishops who have had the conversation also with the Holy See in Rome, asking questions as to ... what is being done with the monies. I think Rome has been quite clear the bishops of the United States need to exercise more prudential guidance and governance over the patrimony of the Church.”

“This is patrimony of the Church,” he added. “It belongs to the Church. People give their money over the understanding that it goes to the Church or Church auspices and programs and ministries.”

Msgr. Waldow noted that Father Pavone remains a priest in good standing. “I must say every time I’ve had conversations with Father Frank and asked him to do whatever the bishop might be requiring ... he’s always been very positive in his response,” he said, adding that Bishop Zurek and Father Pavone both have “very strong personalities.”

Meanwhile, a pro-life organization known for displaying large, graphic photographs of aborted unborn children announced that it will picket parishes in the Diocese of Amarillo in an effort to pressure Bishop Zurek to rescind his decision.

“Pickets will be conducted at many of the diocese's 49 parish churches, with special emphasis on St. Laurence [the diocese’s former cathedral] and the nine other parish churches in the City of Amarillo proper,” Gregg Cunningham of the Center For Bio-Ethical Reform said in a press release. “Street pickets will be supplemented by the operation of a fleet of large billboard trucks bearing signs which will also depict aborted babies and urge Amarillo Catholics to tactfully contact Bishop Zurek to request that he ‘free Father Frank.’”

“The trucks will be accompanied by aircraft towing large aerial billboards which will also bear aborted baby imagery and exhortational text messages,” added Cunningham, who has been a longtime ally of Priests for Life. “These pickets will continue until Bishop Zurek releases Father Pavone from what amounts from ecclesiastical ‘house arrest.’”

Comparing Bishop Zurek’s decision to “the Star Chamber proceedings employed by Ferdinand and Isabella during the Spanish Inquisition,” Cunningham said that “for decades, senior Catholic clerics have hindered efforts to protect the safety of school children. Apparently learning nothing from this appalling lapse, a senior Catholic cleric is now hindering efforts to protect the safety of unborn children. This indiscretion is no less scandalous.”


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  • Posted by: pannw - Sep. 18, 2011 1:50 PM ET USA

    Those accusing Fr. Pavone of disobedience and pride seem to be ignoring the fact that he has done all he has been told to do. I don't think there is any vow that states priests aren't allowed to question or appeal a decision. It seems to me that he is doing what he is supposed to do, going through the proper channels, etc. In light of everything wrong within the Church: colleges, dissident priests, etc., I find it curious that it is a pro-life group that ends up 'investigated', and very sad.

  • Posted by: Chelle,SFO-MI - Sep. 16, 2011 5:37 PM ET USA

    What about the people that want to parade in front the churches with signs of aborted babies? I wouldn't want my small children seeing that...just like I wouldn't want them watching violence on TV. How dare they! In front of Planned Parenthood there is a need for that, but not when families are going in to Holy Mass. It's definitely wrong and they will accomplish angering prolife families raising children, like mine. This is a very bad example for the rest of the world to see and it makes an “us vs them” scene with supporters of “PFL” on one side and “the Church” on the other. That is ridiculous. These picketers should LEAVE IT ALONE and let the bishop handle it…that is part of obedience as well. I am angry at them already! Prayer is in order for the bishop and Fr. P and the truth will come out of it sooner or later.

  • Posted by: samuel.doucette1787 - Sep. 16, 2011 9:57 AM ET USA

    The devil is enjoying this yet again...just as he has enjoyed the Corapi and Euntener debacles. The pro-life movement is bigger than Pavone and Euntener and the priesthood is bigger than Corapi. Many Catholics are displaying a disturbingly Protestant tendency to follow a celebrity pastor.

  • Posted by: bnewman - Sep. 15, 2011 11:29 PM ET USA

    I have contributed to PFL and expect to do so again. I am always very impressed when I hear Fr. Pavone preach on EWTN. But as for his relationship with his bishop there is simply not enough information known as yet. We have to wait.

  • Posted by: voxfem - Sep. 15, 2011 10:12 PM ET USA

    I don't defend the bishop because I don't know him but I do find concern in Fr. Pavone's reaction. The saints, many of whom had to face opposition from within the church, were obedient and waited on God. I agree that there is a feeling of "I have to be the one who does this" kind of pride. If the work is God's, he will provide the workers. Maybe Father should take this time to be in deep prayer for the movement.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 15, 2011 9:55 PM ET USA

    The proper responsibility of priests is the salvation of souls. Pro-life activity, which is always carried out in the political sphere, is the proper mission of the laity. There was once another priest who felt his "mission" was more important than obedience to his ordinary. His name was Martin Luther.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 15, 2011 9:28 PM ET USA

    “God, who is all-knowing and all-wise, knows best what we should do to increase His glory. Through His representatives on earth He continually reveals His Will to us; thus it is obedience and obedience alone that is the sure sign to us of the Divine Will. A superior may, it is true, make a mistake; but it is impossible for us to be mistaken in obeying a superior’s command. The only exception to this rule is the case of a superior commanding something that in even the slightest way would contravene God’s law. Such a superior would not be conveying God’s Will….Obedience raises us beyond the limits of our littleness and puts us in harmony with God’s Will….Obedience is the one and only way of wisdom and prudence for us to offer glory to God.” (St. Maximilian Kolbe, Letters of Maximilian Mary Kolbe)

  • Posted by: Mike in Toronto - Sep. 15, 2011 8:46 PM ET USA

    And here I thought that "promise of obedience to his bishop" meant "promise of obedience to his bishop." Silly me.

  • Posted by: Frodo1945 - Sep. 15, 2011 6:18 PM ET USA

    I don't buy Msgr. Waldow's comments about the interest in PFL finances from the Vatican. The Vatican let the Legionairies of Christ collect and misuse billions of dollars without taking much of an interest. Msgr Waldow is playing his trump card way too early. This bishop used poor judgement IMHO to take on a priest dedicated to pro-life work.

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Sep. 15, 2011 6:01 PM ET USA

    Pace, all. Let's calm down and see what develops. We don't need another Fr. Corapi situation.

  • Posted by: garedawg - Sep. 15, 2011 1:20 PM ET USA

    Big deal. Is Fr. Pavone the only person in the world who can run a pro-life organization?

  • Posted by: - Sep. 15, 2011 12:37 PM ET USA

    Many moons ago, I complained that his manner and manners left much to be desired. "His" organization began to sound pointless. [We expect our priests to be pro-life]. I gave up contributing. Now it appears his bishop has the same sense. That a priest looks to change his diocese because he disagrees with his bishop is no good sign. The theory of dioceses is that a priest must be attached to a diocese. No loose cannons allowed. Fr. Pavone seems to resent being questioned.

  • Posted by: Lucius49 - Sep. 15, 2011 11:51 AM ET USA

    I agree with the comments below re obedience but I believe this is an attempt by this bishop in conjunction with some in the NCCB to get this money for their use just like they tried to "control" Mother Angelica and EWTN. The audits are there and have been there. This excuse of audits and financial oversights is an attempt to see if the Conference can co-opt the monies and "control" this pro-life outreach. This has a bad smell.

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Sep. 15, 2011 11:49 AM ET USA

    Every time there is one of these unfortunate (and all too common) occurrences, people come out from all over to defend the priest against what they are sure are trumped-up charges. Fr. Pavone is a powerful preacher, but I have absolutely no idea what a bookkeeper he is. Why, Oh why, do we the Faithful not shut up for a little bit and let things play out instead of making fools of ourselves?

  • Posted by: Don Vicente - Sep. 15, 2011 11:39 AM ET USA

    Another Diocese... Fr. Pavone already changed from New York to Amarillo. The former "benevolent bishop," Bp. Yanta, who accepted him, retired in Jan, 2008, and Bp. Zurek replaced him. Fr. Pavone may find another "benevolent bishop" in another diocese. But what will he do when THAT bishop retires? You join a diocese NOT a bishop! And consider a good, orthodox, actively pro-life bishop in Diocese X. Does he really want to incardinate a "hot potato"?

  • Posted by: Quadratus - Sep. 15, 2011 10:25 AM ET USA

    Pride works both ways. We have a bishop that is willing to destroy a ministry in order to get his will done.

  • Posted by: Father Fetus - Sep. 15, 2011 10:22 AM ET USA

    "Presbyters who do well as leaders deserve to be paid double, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. The Scripture says, 'You shall not put a muzzle on an ox when he is threshing the grain,' and also, 'The worker deserves his wages.'" 1 Tim 5:17-18

  • Posted by: Saint Jimbob of the Apokalypse - Sep. 15, 2011 10:01 AM ET USA

    Pride. [facepalm] If Fr. Pavone wants to be incardinated in another diocese, won't the bishop there realize he's getting a priest that's "obedience-challenged"?